SC stops all commercial activities on military lands in Karachi


–Justice Gulzar lashes out at DHA, says ‘DHA would encroach on entire sea all the way to America if they had the chance’

–Orders Sindh CM to summon cabinet meeting to determine how Karachi will be restored to form envisioned in original master plan


KARACHI: The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday ordered an end to all commercial activities on military-owned lands in the port city while ordering Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to summon a cabinet meeting and determine how the city will be restored to the form envisioned in its original master plan.

The directives were given as a two-judge bench comprising Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sajid Ali Shah heard a case pertaining to the illegal construction of wedding halls, shopping halls, and plazas in residential areas of Karachi.

The top court rejected a report presented by the Sindh government and Karachi Development Authority (KDA) officials as it criticised them for failing to remove the illegal encroachments from the city.

Justice Gulzar lashed out at the provincial authorities, rebuking them for “singing lullabies” instead of doing their work.

“If we passed an order on the basis of this report, the entire government would collapse,” the judge said.

Reprimanding Sindh Advocate General Salman Talibuddin, Justice Gulzar said, “Don’t tell us bedtime stories”.

Moreover, he said that “we know what it means to sing someone lullabies to put them to sleep”.  “You have a capable secretary and yet you’ve failed to do anything,” he complained.

The court then ordered that a fresh report should be submitted along with architectural plans and suggestions.

“Let me tell you, this city will be restored to its original master plan,” Justice Gulzar asserted.

“Look at what Defence Housing Authority (DHA) has done to the coastal strip,” he remarked.

“They have encroached so far into the sea if they had their way they would build a city on the sea. “The owners of DHA would encroach on the entire sea all the way to America and then plant their flags there,” the judge commented.

“The owners of DHA are wondering how they can make inroads into India,” he added.

Later, while ordering an end to commercial activities on military land, Justice Gulzar wondered why the armed forces and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) were running wedding halls and cinemas.

He inquired if it was their job to do so.

Taking aim at the CAA, he noted that a wedding hall was being operated near the Karachi airport, which had been the target of a terrorist attack in the past.

Then, turning to the armed forces, he asked what a wedding hall was doing operating so close to the Central Ordnance Depot, meant for stockpiling active ammunition and weapons.

“Have some fear of God!” he thundered.

He also asked why walls were being erected along main thoroughfares based on the wishes of an armed forces officer, who, judge said, wishes to use them (the walls) to generate revenue from billboards.

“And, behind these walls, big buildings are being constructed,” he noted. “If they [the people involved] had their way, they would be constructing buildings on the streets.”

Justice Gulzar remarked that “all institutions were to blame for the damage done to the infrastructure of the city”.

He then ordered the provincial government to call a cabinet meeting and submit a collective report on the removal of encroachments within two weeks.

On Tuesday, SC had barred the use of residential plots for commercial purposes including the construction of wedding halls, shopping malls, and plazas and directed Sindh Building Control Authority against issuing no-objection certificates for construction of commercial buildings unless the projects are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).